Predicting the 2018 Pirates Record
The Pirates finished in second place every year from 2013-15, and they could not get over the hump known as the St. Louis Cardinals. The last two seasons the club has finished third and fourth respectively, and overall haven’t finished in the basement since 2010. They won’t be as bad as they were in 2010, but not as good as they were from 2013-15. They’re more of a blend between 2016 and 2017.
The Pirates will likely fall on the spectrum of 79-83 wins, fading in and out of the wild card race all summer, with ultimately another disappointing finish. The club does have some interesting players who have some high variability in them (Moran and Gregory Polanco) to where if they outperform their projections, the club might be more contender than pretender. In other words, the club has the pieces to make an Oakland Athletics or Tampa Bay Rays surprise run given the variability in some key players, but that model works the other way as well, seen in the Oakland Athletics tendency to finish in last place when they’re not a contender.
That 79-83 win window is likely good enough to finish in third place, though the Brewers will be fighting for that spot as well. The Brewers added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, but it comes at a cost in terms of playing Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun. With the club planning to use Braun at first against left-handed pitchers, the Brewers will lose value from Eric Thames, a two win player from last year. There’s perceived additions of two solid players – which both Cain and Yelich are – but there is an opportunity cost involved with the additions, something that seemingly always gets ignored.
The biggest problem for the Brewers is that Jimmy Nelson is out until likely the middle of July at best. I’m not buying into them mainly for that purpose, as their starting rotation leaves lots to be desired. For that reason, this division will be a race between the Cardinals and Cubs while the Brewers and Pirates compete for third place, as the Reds continue to fail to make any noise with a last place finish.
The Pirates won’t make the playoffs, and they have some players with upside. There’s probably not enough to compete, but targeting players with the hopes they outperform their projections is a model the most successful small market teams have used, but there is room for it to backfire, seen by the Pirates, Athletics, and Rays over the last couple seasons. Is it the best model? Perhaps not, but it is the one the Pirates appear to be using, and it can frustrating. Another year, another season to flirt with .500 for sixth months.